The Ties That Bind

We, by design, live our lives in our minds. If we do not know ourselves, we are blind to everything outside of our bodies; we live with our eyes closed. The world as it stands is filtered, darkened, and warped if not viewed with the sort of clarity that comes with  deep and daily introspection. If there are parts of ourselves that we fear–parts that we hate, parts that bring us pain, or parts we simply do not know and have not examined–we try to escape that blackness. We run from ourselves, we skitter and hide from our pain, we do anything in our power to avoid turning around and looking at what lurks in the recesses of consciousness.

Everyone runs. Some just have to run faster than others to escape that broiling mess.

Those who struggle with substance abuse have that aforementioned mess perfectly, wonderfully, beautifully soothed when they take drugs. Drugs work. Drugs are the most effective coping mechanism known to man–their effectiveness is precisely why they are so addictive. To be perfectly blunt, some people don’t need coping mechanisms that potent. Some people get by with low-key self-destructiveness, or pathological lying, or passive-aggressiveness, or any other number of negative behavioral patterns that have an immediate and satisfying effect but are detrimental in the long run. Taking seven lines of cocaine because you woke up feeling kind of crappy is probably overkill, but taking seven shots might really hit the spot. Banging heroin because you felt a little self-conscious earlier is presumably a wee bit over the top, but being snarky to the grocery clerk might make you feel just peachy.

Addiction is a behavioral pattern that negatively impacts one’s life and yet is never altered (or is unsuccessfully altered)–and everyone is an addict.

Humanity fears a loss of control. Anyone who outwardly displays what people inwardly fear is hated by the fearful. We outright despise those who brazenly flaunt the flaws we hide away in the back of our closets. Those who swim in the murk of substance abuse shine a light on the darkest parts of what it means to be human. They show how deep the thread of addiction can run, how quickly one’s life can be destroyed, and how low one is really willing to stoop to do what must be done to silence the inner demons. The same way that those who struggle with obesity draw the ire of those who fear losing their slim stature, addicts are outright hated by those who themselves fear losing control.

But at the end of the day, there is no such thing as a non-addict. The only reason you might not have a needle in your arm is because your life never required that particular tool. Everyone–literally everyone–is addicted to something. It’s far easier to imagine that addiction is a strange and otherworldly beast that only strikes down the weak. It’s comfortable to believe that addicts lack willpower but we, the non-addict, are strong. It’s comfortable to believe that addicts are subhuman, or psychopathic, or alien, or evil to the core. But you are an addict.

In reality, addiction isn’t just something that could happen to you–it is something that is within you at this very moment. It is something that rears its head whenever the urge to run or hide or fight surfaces within ourselves. Addiction is not just a stony-eyed woman peering out from a poster beneath the words “Not Even Once.” Addiction is also that extra-long run in the morning, or the extra drink, or the procrastination, or the constant tardiness, or the penchant for drama. Addiction is the bank balance that constantly reads lower than it should, or the relationships that always seem to fall to pieces, or the anger that constantly rises unbidden. Addiction is the pot of lukewarm water on a lit stove, and (like it or not, believe it or not) we’re all slowly boiling.

Without knowing what it is from which we run, we cannot identify how exactly we escape it and how to face it properly in the future. Introspection is the antithesis to addiction, and it’s time to look behind you.